#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster — A fight with furry fandom influence.
by Patch O'Furr
that and robin hood
— bigger scarier dave (@davidhsiegel) September 17, 2016
I LOVE THAT SONG
First published in 1983-1987, Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger fantasy series struck a chord for a burgeoning fandom. It features a law student, Jon-Tom, with janitor work and rock and roll dreams. He wakes up in a strange land after smoking something weird to escape mundanity, where he meets a rabble-rousing otter (Mudge) and turtle wizard (Clothahump). His new talking-animal world sets a stage for learning to channel magic with music… but only once per song. Playing Pink Floyd’s Money on his “Duar” guitar can solve a problem once… if he even gets it right.
Loaded with epic fantasy, humor, cartoonish characters, and even moments to make an imaginative reader read extra hard (hot tiger-women and gay unicorns!) — It was the right kind of story that reached the right fans at the right time. The animals weren’t just for kids; they drank, stabbed, screwed, and swore! It made me a 90’s furry before I knew there was a fandom for it.
Foster’s writing was pure fun, spiked with a threat of apocalyptic invasion and a race to defeat it in classic quest mode. I’d assume this was mid-list bookstore fare; not bestselling but solid original work for a productive author. Bigger pay would come with franchise adaptations — his novels for Star Wars, the Aliens movies, and Star Trek.
Making canon work for such big properties should earn secure income for a challenging career of genre writing. That is, if Disney would honor what Lucasfilm agreed to owe, after they acquired the company in 2012 for several billion dollars.
SOUR NOTES FROM DISNEY
Disney isn’t paying Alan Dean Foster his due. Foster shouldn’t have to sing a magic spell to get what he’s owed. It sounds like plain power abuse because they can afford to run up expenses in court (we’re all familiar with Trumpian bullying now, right?) It’s a story with a roots creator as David vs. a corporate Goliath for the fandom today. This should hit a nerve for anyone deeply in tune with the Furry Thing. (I wish fandom founder Fred Patten was around to comment.)
There’s a bunch of news that covers Foster’s issues with needing health care for cancer and for his wife. It’s also gotten an unusually strong response from the Science Fiction Writers Association, who usually resolve grievances in private but urged fans to speak out with their hashtag.
“We’ve tried everything else”, said Foster. “Just trying to get somebody at Disney to talk to my agents has been going on for over a year.” The worse issue beyond stiffing one author is, if they can get away with it, what kind of precedent does it set for ALL creators they owe?
- SFWA: #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster (with author’s statement, and the topic of public pressure starts at 17:00 in their press conference.)
- Daily KOS: A Company So Greedy It’s Vile: Disney Refuses to Pay Author His Royalties
- The Guardian: Star Wars author appeals to Disney in fight over royalties
FURRIES AND FOSTER
Can the furry fandom do anything to help? Let’s look at some special ties that could get devotion beyond what bigger fandoms give.
Wikifur has pages for Alan Dean Foster, his furry-adjacent novel Quozl, and Spellsinger. He was Guest of Honor at ConFurence 6 (1995) and Further Confusion 2005. Then at Rainfurrest 2011, Foster announced that the film rights for Spellsinger were optioned and he showed concept art for it. The film producer was at first a general fan for a loved series, but it was a big deal to announce the news at a furry con. Are they the fans who care most about his original creations outside of bigger corporate-run canons?
@TyrenTiger Excellent question! I personally kinda love Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger setting. Furries, high-magic, epic fantasy. 🙂
— Black Lives Matter. Period. (@jakebe) September 8, 2015
I can’t tell if his other works have fan art, but on Deviantart you can find a delightful Spellsinger full character lineup and other artists joining in.
The movie producer’s blog had stories about discovering furries in the process of pitching his labor of love, and embracing them — Why the Furry Fandom will love Spellsinger! and Calling all Furries!!
Here’s a Youtube movie pitch from when the project was active in 2011-2012. Foster’s personal forum had an active thread with talk about how modern CG and animation could really make it special.
Sadly, I get the idea that the movie pitching went nowhere. I wonder if music rights were a snag, since the books built in references to some of the all-time most popular (and expensive) rock songs, where obtaining rights could cost a fortune. Perhaps one day…
I reached out to the SFWA and Alan Dean Foster to ask if they recommend ways to speak up and get attention — for comments about furries — and any side topics about other projects he may want to share. We’ll see if there are comments, but here’s a thought.
The fandom has the ear of loved pros like Zootopia artist Joaquin Baldwin. Could it help to ask them about boosting calls for creators rights? Try it.
DISNEY, MEET ANOTHER BIG RAT
This story came in from Joe Strike, author of fandom history book Furry Nation (reviewed by Fred Patten.) Joe sent another tip from his NYC hometown:
- Gothamist: The Subway Is Struggling, But At Least We Have This Performance Artist Pretending To Be A Rat
“This guy has gotten a lot of attention the last day or two. The giant pizza slice is a reference to a viral video clip from several years ago of a rat in the subway dragging a slice down the stairs.”
I love New York… pic.twitter.com/0z5uaf9iTO
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) November 17, 2020
Joe adds: “I’ll try to interview the rat performance artist. BTW it’s not just this guy — there are several performance artists presenting themselves as anthro animals. It’ll be a chapter for my sequel Furry Planet which (in addition to more furry history and talking to non-US furs about their local furry scenes, like your piece about Unid in Sri Lanka) will look at non-furry anthropomorphism in the contemporary fine arts and popular culture. (ie Bojack Horseman and The Masked Singer.)”
I wonder if Alan Dean Foster ever feels like an old dragged pizza slice. I hope fans can help make Disney sing a different tune.
(Thanks to Mike Glyer for sharing at File770.)
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If Disney gets away with this, it sets a terrible precedent for content creators in the future. All a company would have to do to stop paying the author/creator is sell their contract to a sister company and claim they don’t need to obey the obligations of the contract. It’s well worth following and spreading the word about. Let’s all hope ADF gets what he is owed. Do the right thing, Mickey.
The Mouse is all about the dead presidents. It is a giant corporation and they are just whores for cash. What this REALLY rides on is contract law. If Foster’s contract included an “assignment clause,” then a company that buys that contract must honor all obligations. If it does not, then they might not be required to, even if it is morally repugnant not to. Again, it’s all about the contract. At this point, Foster must know whether or not his contract has said clause. I’d love to know.
His contracts for these books are binding on “the successors and assigns,” which is Disney in this case.
It’s heartbreaking to read this. Disney only cares about $$ and extracting anything that entails “in God We Trust” $$. They should fairly compensate Alan Dean Foster for his extraordinary contributions. It’s only fair. JG Bear